By Mulengera Reporters
Being the shrewd Mityana born he has always been, Vision Group employee Richard Kayira Salongo recently hit a jackpot and coincidentally it related to the EU-funded DGF project whose chaos Mulengera News reported about a few days ago (prompting respective superiors back home to intervene).
Not very inaccurately perceived by many in government as one of the initiatives major European powers are using to undermine and increase scrutiny around President Museveni’s government (mostly using CSOs/NGOs), DGF comprises of basket funding the western powers put together to build capacity for Civil Society Organizations and media to demand accountability against the Museveni government.
The DGF program is also about building the citizens’ civic competences to demand good governance and service delivery while exposing the ills of Museveni’s 34 year old NRM government. Having become privy to all this information, Kayira (who is a leading influence at Vision Group) originated a brilliant proposal calling on the DGF bosses to partner with the Robert Kabushenga-led media syndicate.
The proposal was to the effect that the various Vision Group media platforms (including New Vision, Saturday/Sunday Vision, Bukedde and the electronic platforms like radio and TV) would in a syndicated manner publish well researched articles and news items exposing deeply-seated corruption in government agencies in a manner that arouses public awareness and assertiveness.
In between them, the Vision Group outlets have a combined audience stretching millions and they have unrivalled countrywide coverage and presence. The guys at DGF, renowned for their anti-Museveni government disposition, enthusiastically responded to the proposal seeing it as God-sent opportunity.
Unknown to DGF stakeholders, the Museveni State House and security apparatus considers them hostile and interested in seeing the big man from Rwakitura out and replaced by a more docile leader. This is the reason why (at Museveni’s prompting) Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa has been demanding inclusion and government representation on the DGF Governing Board. Museveni, who is also careful to avoid full scale confrontation with Western powers, hopes inclusion in the governing board will increase scrutiny and enable GoU increased say in decision-making regarding which governance priorities DGF funds. However, DGF bosses have remained adamant but sources close to him say, Museveni won’t be relenting as it remains his conviction this mischief should continue unchecked.
BACK TO VISION GROUP
Kayira, who is said to have been born with a sliver spoon in his mouth, had his proposal accepted and followed with a DGF financial commitment of Shs1.3bn for just the piloting phase. Because money isn’t their problem, DGF financial administrators ensured the cash was immediately transferred from theirs to the Vision Group account.
The very excited Vision Group bosses praised (one source cheekily said worshipped) Kayira and immediately called a celebratory meeting. This was considered a good deal for a number of reasons including the fact that anti-government things ironically sell (meaning audiences would swell). It was irresistible because here was an easily saleable project which is also sponsored.
In that meeting, Vision Group managers worked out a formula on how to share the money among the different media platforms that would participate in communicating the accountability-enhancing stories that would be produced. They also worked out teams of staff members that would participate in the implementation of the project and seek renewal of the contract with DGF whose bosses had expressed readiness to finance more such negative (but selling) publicity campaigns.
One irony has to be clarified; despite being state-owned, Vision Group (commanding over 60% of the media audiences) must compete to remain afloat. Shareholders want good profits and advertisers want audiences. It’s what they pay for.
This simply means that to compete and continue maintaining the market leadership position, Vision Group must air stuff the public wants to hear-and not necessarily what sells government. Truth is anti-government stuff sells and in any case, news is the controversy and not just the good PR stories about government. This simply is the reason why Kayira’s deal was a good one for Vision Group-killing many birds with one stone.
As the guy whose brilliant proposal resulted into such a large windfall, Kayira became entitled to Shs250m in commission and this is prudent common practice everywhere. Even banks reward business acquisition and there was nothing wrong with much-envied Kayira pocketing his Shs250m.
It should be clarified that because it’s a lucrative place to work at, Vision Group is one work place with plenty of envy (nugu) and staff intrigue. And that’s the reason Mirundi always gets their secrets and claims some even engage in witchcraft to overcome their adversaries yet for Kabushenga, good performance like Kayira’s must always be rewarded. The Group HR philosophy is labor works more productively when seeking to excel and be rewarded as opposed to just working to avoid reprimand.
As part of the DGF project, government entities like police have lately suffered bad publicity on the Vision Group platforms and Tamale Mirundi says all this is part of the broader scheme to undermine government whereas not. As indicated above, it’s purely business prudence that CEO Robert Kabushenga is practicing and nothing more.
The agencies that have suffered the wrath of the Vision Group-DGF Shs1.3bn partnership include NIRA whose corruption was recently exposed in a weekend special project that was syndicated across all Group platforms. The other was Okoth Ochora’s Uganda Police Force whose OCs and DPCs were exposed for selling police bonds among other anomalies. The public was happy the police and NIRA impunity had at last been sufficiently exposed. And public feedback now is that service delivery has improved and bribe-solicitation has declined at the two entities.
Bart Katureebe’s Judiciary too hasn’t been spared as a very rigorous cleanup campaign continues to be undertaken on especially Bukedde radio and TV where members of the public have been invited for a Kimeeza-like forum where they are encouraged to expose all the corruption and mistreatment they have ever suffered at the hands of judicial officers. And like in the case of NIRA and Police, the public is expected to become charged and demand action against individual officers whose improper conduct has been exposed during these Bukedde (name & shame) sessions. The project also focused on exposing Police’s human rights abuses, a subject DGF likes seeing scrutinized from time to time.
PAYING THE PANELISTS
The Vision Group leadership has indeed acted transparently and accountably because panelists like (many of them opposition-leaning) who have been participating as resource persons during these anti-state/Judiciary Radio/TV debates have each retired with a heavy envelope designated as allowances for participating in the debates officially presented as aimed at boosting the fight against corruption to enhance service delivery.
But among the Group employees, the DGF cash has created some animosity leading to an escalation of the bad blood that has always existed amongst staff. Everyone wanted inclusion on the implementation teams because of the unusually generous facilitation money accompanying such DGF-related assignments. Yet it’s simply not possible to assign everybody. Those who got included are stilling smiling while those excluded are very bitter and cursing Kayira & Co. This infighting is something the Vision Group management has become used to managing on daily basis because, as Mirundi always says, there is simply a lot of staff intrigue at Vision Group. It’s simply too much.
STEALING KAYIRA’S SHS250M
Some are casually saying it’s the outcome of the office intrigue (and the resultant juju as Mirundi alleges) but the painful truth is Richard Kayira Ssalongo (the super sales rep) is sad and blue after the Shs250m he earned in commission off the DGF deal was stolen the very day he picked it from the bank.
On the fateful day, Kayira (renowned for being shrewdly business-minded) got his brother (another Vision Group giant) to escort him to their Mityana cradle. This was last Friday. Sources close to Kayira say the negotiations for the land purchase had started in April when he first confirmed the DGF had bought in and agreed on the Shs1.3bn bill. So the land sellers (a large family) had eagerly been waiting for conclusion of the deal. On Friday, Kayira rang his brokers telling them to get ready. They agreed to meet on the land which he had generally inspected on earlier visits.
On the Friday meant for payment, Kayira and his brother (who reports gossip on TV) arrived early in Mityana and the family gathered and took them around the large piece of land to ensure what earlier contacts had told Kayira is unanimously corroborated in the presence of all family members.
As the group walked on foot taking Kayira around the large piece of land, the two very excited journalists left behind their posh vehicle in which the money had been loaded. It’s not clear what happened; either too much excitement drowned them and they didn’t lock the vehicle properly or the thieves were sophisticated with technology capable of forcing the vehicle open.
The tour took some significant time because it’s really a large piece of land. And by the time the group returned to begin counting the money and pay off the salivating (poverty-stricken) family members, it was realized the cash had been stolen. Sources fully briefed about the saga say that Kayira (who is Deputy news editor Bukedde and anchor for Gataliiko nfufu) cried to the point of blacking out.
“He wailed and cried until he couldn’t cry anymore and his brother who should have helped was equally devastated. And Kayira kept crying and saying ‘maama ndabye nze oba ani anondola okutuka wano.’ He cried until he lost his spectacles. He kept loudly wailing banange munyambe nze abasajja banzibye atenga sente tezibadde zange. Nfudde nze [I’m finished because this money wasn’t even mine]. On recomposing himself days, Kayira reported the matter to security. All efforts are being undertaken by the very police [their DGF-funded stories undermined] to recover the money,” said a source close to the matter.
Kayira was advised to mend fences and approach a senior female crime reporter working with Vision Group to use her contacts linking him to the best incorruptible security operatives to help recover the money and the hunt is ongoing but so far no money has been recovered. The female workmate, previously not very friendly to Kayira, made things even more complicated for the bespectacled Gataliiko nfufu maestro by demanding for a commission in case her friendly security agents succeed recovering the cash.
We rang Richard Kayira to corroborate the story but he sounded too distraught to discuss the matter. In fact his phone went off the moment we introduced the matter and he heard our commiseration. We severally tried calling back and all our efforts ended in futility. (For comments, call, text or whatsapp us on 0703164755 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org).